The human microbiome – the ecosystem of bacteria that lives in your gut – has been shown to affect everything from asthma to depression to anxiety disorders.
Knowing those bugs’ state of health is becoming key to diagnosing and treating a range of illnesses. Currently, physicians do that by analyzing a poop sample. But that only reveals the condition of bacteria in the colon, not farther upstream where entire nations of different bacteria live.
Now researchers at Tufts University have devised a way to take bacteria samples all along the intestinal tract: they’ve created an ingestible capsule that takes bacteria samples as it travels through the gut.
The capsule’s coating keeps it from being dissolved in the stomach. When it reaches the small intestine, a compound in the capsule draws in bacteria through a one-way membrane. The bugs then are stored in various microchambers inside the capsule.
The capsule also is magnetized so a physician could draw it to, or hold it in, one spot to gather pinpoint data.
Once the capsule is excreted, it can be collected and the contents analyzed.
TRENDPOST: The human microbiome is a center of research matching various families and concentrations of gut bacteria to specific medical conditions. Tufts’ capsule could speed that research as well as provide what may become a speedy, go-to diagnostic tool for designing a customized treatment plan for an individual.
The capsule is a key step along the road toward personalized medical treatments.